Since 2008, YBB has equipped thousands of incarcerated youth and adults with the physical and mental tools to change their lives from the inside out.
The U.S. is the world’s largest jailer.
Did you know that more than 2.2 million people in the United States are behind bars? Incarceration has increasingly become an inefficient panacea for many other social issues such as mental illness, racism, poverty, homelessness, and drug addiction. Yoga Behind Bars is committed to breaking this cycle of trauma-stress-prison. Our programs give people behind bars the opportunity to heal, grow, and prepare for their return to our communities by addressing a root cause of incarceration: trauma.
WHY TRAUMA INFORMED YOGA?
In short, yoga and meditation work.
Many youth and adults in prison have long and painful histories of trauma, going all the way back to their early childhood, and past generations. Yet there are very few resources provided to safely integrate this unresolved trauma. More than 90% of people behind bars return to society. But within 3 years, 60% return to prison or jail.
We urgently need to stop this cycle of repeated incarceration and offer programs that truly create wholeness, safety, and belonging. We are proud to be part of a movement that encourages us to think and act differently, to reimagine our criminal justice system. Our trauma-informed and resilience-building methodology offers practical inner tools people can use anywhere. It works.
In addition to the physical benefits and improved overall well-being, yoga and meditation have been scientifically proven to:
- Drastically reduce rates of recidivism, people who practice yoga and meditation behind bars are less likely to return to prison once they have finished their sentence
- Only 8% of individuals who took 4 or more yoga classes returned to prison, compared with a national average of 60% recidivism.
- Reduce depression, anger, and anxiety, often a root cause of destructive behavior and drug use.
- Be an effective adjunctive therapy during treatment for drug addiction, which is a co-factor in many of our students’ incarceration.
Our definition of Trauma-Informed Yoga
We define trauma-informed yoga as offering accessible embodiment practices that encourage participants to reclaim their agency through choice, inclusion, and nervous-system regulation. Rather than merely addressing emotional and physical symptoms of trauma, our classes focus on well-being, possibility, and choice. Our instructors have sensitivity and awareness of trauma, and understand its impact on the entire mind-body system. They fully integrate knowledge into their teaching practices to move towards well-being, and actively resist re-traumatization.
“Trauma sensitive yoga can be incredibly powerful in the healing of a woman who has experienced significant hardship whether incarcerated or not.”
– Staff member at Washington Corrections Center for Women, 2016
Yoga Behind Bars by the numbers
Our team of 100+ volunteer instructors and 11 incarcerated teachers, currently reach an average of 250 students through 37 classes weekly, in 18 different facilities in 13 Washington State Counties each week. We teach at all custody levels, maximum, medium, and minimum, as well as solitary confinement.
Students Reached Annually
Our students give this work meaning. Each year we teach thousands of incarcerated people yoga, and bring meditation and asanas to a variety of populations, including youth, the mental health unit at the women’s prison, the Veteran’s pod at Kent Jail, and men in solitary at the Monroe prison.
People trained through YBB
Our 17-hour Trauma-Informed Yoga Training is a program for people interested in offering and experiencing inclusive, resilience-building approaches to yoga. People from around the country come to study with us and apply what they learn in a variety of places– including social service settings, community centers, homeless shelters, and schools. And, beyond Washington State, people have started their own programs inspired by YBB in Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, West Virginia, and even Kenya.
Incarcerated Teachers Trained
In August of 2015, 10 men from 5 different prisons around the state were transferred to Stafford Creek Corrections Center to start their training. They graduated in February 2016 and are now teaching yoga classes at 5 facilities across the state. In October of 2016, 10 women at Washington Corrections Center for Women started their training, and 5 of them graduated in April 2017.
Teach Behind Bars
WHERE WE TEACH
18 Facilities across 13 Washington State counties.
Starting with one yoga teacher in Seattle’s downtown jail, we now offer classes in minimum, medium, and maximum custody, solitary confinement, mental health treatment units, as well as classes for incarcerated veterans. We also have a team of incarcerated yoga instructors, whom we’ve trained, teach inside their facilities. As an international leader in prison yoga, we offer a unique and practical roadmap for increased well-being, trauma recovery, and lasting social change. Every day youth and adults practice trauma-informed yoga and meditation through our programs. Below is a list of where we teach:
Clallam Bay Corrections Center
Monroe Correctional Complex
Washington State Reformatory
Stafford Creek Corrections Center
King County Correctional Facility
Maleng Regional Justice Center
Washington Corrections Center for Women
Federal Detention Center, SeaTac
King County Juvenile Detention Center
Echo Glen Children’s Center
Denney Juvenile Justice Center
Airway Heights Corrections Center
Washington State Penitentiary
Coyote Ridge Corrections Center
Washington Corrections Center
Whatcom County Juvenile Court
Washington Corrections Center in Shelton
Whatcom County Juvenile Detention Center
Books, blogs, and authors we love
- US News’ How Yoga Helps Survivors of Trauma
- Yoga Helps At-Risk Girls Cope with Trauma, a Georgetown Law report
- The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement
- WNYC’s How America Can Cut the Prison Population in Half
- Upworthy’s – The Numbers Behind Why America Has So Many People in Prison
- ACLU’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Infographic
- Fact Sheet: How Bad is the School to Prison Pipeline?
- A White Yogis 9-Step Guide towards Action for Racial Justice in Ferguson and Beyond
- The Vera Project 2018 “The New Dynamics of Mass Incarceration” report
- Overlooked: Women in Jail, by the Vera Institute
- Reimagining Prison, by the Vera Institute
- Life Cycles of Inequality, by Colorlines
- Frontline’s Life on Parole
- Michelle Alexander interview on Democracy Now
- Racial Inequality in the Criminal Justice System by learnliberty.org
- The War on Drugs and the War on Immigrants is Intertwined, by Colorlines